A Volunteer’s Guide to Fingernail Polish

During my spare time on the weekends, I spend a couple hours at my local hospital. I volunteer in the inpatient pediatric ward doing things like sanitizing toys and making Play Doh. Today, however, was a little different. When I walked in, the activities coordinator  prompted me with a question. “Are you any good at painting finger nails?” For the first time since I’ve volunteered there, I was asked to go to a girl’s room to paint her fingernails. Ecstatic, I wheeled the fingernail painting cart off to her room. This girl (she had just turned sixteen) was so excited to see me come to paint her nails. While I painted her fingernails and toenails bright sparkly purple, we talked about how she played flute, how she loved to swim, and how her treatment sometimes hurt. It felt like we talked about everything, and when I was done, she asked me if I really had to go or if I could stay. We ended up walking together to the childlife playroom and playing a game of Would You Rather. By the end of my shift, the activities coordinator came up to me and thanked me for spending time with her. “She hasn’t left her room for over a week, so getting her in this playroom is a big deal. Thank you.” In such a small, seemingly insignificant position, I forget how much of an influence I can have on someone’s life. I consider my time with the girl today as another force pushing me towards my career in medicine. She only assured me that my passion lies in helping other kids like her live the healthiest, happiest lives they can possibly have.

And so, for those painting the fingernails of kids in pediatrics here is a quick guide for success.

1. No matter how little or how much experience you have with painting fingernails, the kids don’t care; they’ll think it’s great no matter what.

2. Be prepared to find fingernail polish in places you didn’t think you would find it. Like your hair.

3. Talk about movies, pets, TV shows, seasons, sports, colors.. and be prepared to be spontaneous!

4. Remember that some of these kids have only seen their parents and the hospital faculty during their stay, so it’s nice for them to talk to someone new.

5. Lastly, bring out your inner child. That’s the only way to make kids feel comfortable, especially when everything seems so serious in their life during their medical difficulties.


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